The dread disease can keep me from settling in and enjoying the music I’ve chosen in the gym or the book I’ve selected to read over supper. (“Is there something I’d enjoy more?”)
It can make me sign up for activities that aren’t a good fit, and can keep me questioning whether I’ve found the best counselor (or friend, or publisher) rather than enjoying the many gifts in the relationship. (“Is there someone better out there?”)
It can fill my inbox with blog subscriptions and news feeds that are no longer helpful but which I haven’t dared to cancel. (“What if I miss something important?”)
It goes by the name FOMO: Fear Of Missing Out.
Behind it is the hiss of the snake, “God is holding out on you, keeping back his best.”
The snake hisses and the constant stream of information surges towards me, far more than I can ever chew and swallow, or would want to. When FOMO is active, I let it happen, the world force-feeding me through news feeds and facebook feeds. I am so afraid of missing something important, something good and nourishing, that I skim, nibbling and tasting, not slowing to savor, to chew and swallow and digest. And I die a little on the inside, because, despite my constant nibbling, when I don’t select and savor and swallow what really nourishes I end up like Colin, the man I met lying under the bridge yesterday, who is “always a little hungry.” Or maybe a lot hungry. Maybe, though we look bloated, we’re actually empty and starving to death.
Not like Paul. How, I’ve wondered, was Paul, in jail and sleepless and hungry, still so full—of peace, of joy, of contentment. I’ve been irritated, at times, that Paul told us he had learned the secret of being content in any and every situation and then didn’t go on in the next breath to spell out for us that secret. (“Come on, Paul!”)
Now I see he had already spelled it out:
- “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21)
- “I want to know Christ. . .” (Phil 3:10)
- “Rejoice in the Lord always. . . . The Lord is near.” (Phil 4:4-5)
Paul, like Peter, had learned to look away from the waves and onto Christ’s face, away from the prison cell and at the one singing with him in the dark dungeon. Paul had learned that the enemy of contentment is FOMO, and the surest way to conquer FOMO is to turn and see Christ with you. In the gym, eyes sparkling as he looks back at you and comments on the marvelous melody that the clarinet just played; at your desk, working through the impossible piles and puzzles with you; on the edge of your bed, sitting beside you and offering you his own quiet presence. Even, as Peter and martyr Matrona of Thessalonica and other saints throughout history have found, turning your prison cell into a bridal chamber.
The surest way to conquer FOMO is to turn and see Christ with you, because in the face of Christ we see God’s best already given, forever given, opening up in new ways in every moment and situation. With Christ beside us, with us, in us, all has been given.
(Exactly what was I afraid of missing out on? I can’t remember anymore.)